Best ways to secure artwork for shipping

Whenever you are shipping something overseas, there is always a certain fear nagging you. It is scratching in the back of your head, asking you all the questions you don’t want to think about. What happens if the cargo gets lost or stolen? Can my goods get damaged? Are these air-sea forwarders the best I could have found to transport my items to their location? The feelings get worse the more expensive your items are. So, what happens when you are shipping something really valuable – like artwork? Paintings and similar pieces of art can often be worth a lot of money, so you need to properly secure them. Luckily, whether you are shipping artwork by air or by sea, there are certain things you can do to make sure you lower the risk of the damages. In this article, find out how to secure artwork for shipping.

Secure artwork for shipping based on its type

The first thing you need to think about is what kind of artwork you are sending. There is a variety of sizes, as well as the methods in which you present your artwork. All of these will influence and inform your decision about securing the piece. So, think about whether:

  • the piece of artwork you are shipping is an unframed poster or a print or
  • if you want to secure artwork for shipping that’s already in the frame.
  • Also, consider the type of containers you have available for your artwork.

When it comes to the size of the artwork, the same rules apply. For example, if you are working with exhibition cargo, where there are many paintings in a collection, you will want to secure each and every one separately, just like you would do if you were sending one piece. So now, let’s take a look at how to secure artwork for shipping based on its type.

How to secure unframed artwork

When it comes to pieces of artwork that don’t have a frame, your job is quite easy. All you need to do is carefully roll them up. The diameter of the role should be no larger than one and a half inches. By doing this, you are leaving some breathing room between your artwork and the most boxes and tubes you will be transporting the piece in. If there are bumps along the road, and the box gets a little dent, the artwork won’t receive damage if it’s not right against the wall of the container.

Posters on a wall.
Be careful not to tear up your posters.

After that, you will want to wrap your roll in a piece of plastic or protective paper. You will want to secure it from moisture, but also from dust and dirt that might get in contact with it. Remember not to use rubber bands. Although they are quite convenient, they will tear or bend the artwork. Finally, use a masking tape to secure the wrapping around your artwork. Be very careful not to stick anything on the piece itself, because it can tear up when you are unpacking it.

How to secure artwork already in a frame

When you want to secure artwork for shipping and it’s already in a frame, then things start to get fun. First, you need to figure out what kind of a box you want to use. If this is the first time you are shipping artwork, we recommend you talk to some professional freight forwarders. They can give you helpful hints and tips on how to do this properly.

Mona Lisa in its frame.
Securing framed artwork will require some work.

Packing tips

So, let’s say you are shipping a painting. First, measure it, and add six inches to each of the dimensions. This is because you will be adding cardboard and padding to secure artwork for shipping. The numbers you get are the ideal dimensions of your box. Then, figure out if the glass of the frame has a UV finish or not. If it doesn’t, place a tape over it in a star, X or asterisk (*) shape. This will protect the glass from the smaller vibrations, and keep it from breaking. If it has a coating, then you should not do this. The tape will just damage it.

Then, get a couple of pieces of corrugated cardboard. Trace the frame on it and cut out a piece. This way, you are getting a rectangle of corrugated cardboard that completely covers your frame. Get another piece like that for the other side of the painting. Then, place bubble wrap between the painting and the pieces, and secure them together with a painter’s or masking tape. If the back of the frame is firm and sturdy, then you can use just one piece of corrugated cardboard and tape it to the back of the frame when packing collectibles for international transport.

Consider what packaging materials you have

Finally, once you know how to secure artwork for shipping think about the packaging. The boxes you are packing your things in need to be first and sturdy. Sometimes things can get shuffled around when workers are packing a shipping container, so they need to be able to withstand the stress of transportation.

Cardboard can be used to secure artwork for shipping.
Use cardboard wisely to protect your artwork.

For posters and prints, mailing tubes are great. However, make sure the walls of the tube are at least a quarter of an inch thick. You can also add some packing peanuts or bubble wrap at the ends of the tube to further secure artwork for shipping. As for the framed artwork, get a box that’s only slightly bigger than the ideal. Then, fill the gaps with some bubble wrap or padding, to secure it firmly inside the box.

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